Skip to main content

Full text of "Civil War men in ranks"

See other formats


O -n 

m !? 





CD o 

2 TQ 

Civil War 

* > 

Men in Ranks 

Confederate Soldiers 



Excerpts from newspapers and other sources 


From the files of the 
Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection 


"7/. 200I. ^£5. a4z~?7 

Lincoln Lore 

Bulletin of The Lincoln National Life Foundation. ..Mark E. Neely, Jr., Editor. Published each month 
by The Lincoln National Life Insurance Company, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46801. 

September, 1975 

Number 1651 


Lincoln-related documents turn up in the most unlikely 
places. The Southern Historical Collection at the University 
of North Carolina Library in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is 
rich in manuscript materials havingto do with Lincoln's Con- 
federate antagonists, but it has never been considered a major 
source of Lincolniana. The published catalogue of this vast 
collection, a substantial volume in itself, contains a subject 
guide, and there is only one reference to Abraham Lincoln in 
the whole index. However, it 
has proved to be a reference 
worth exploring. For many 
years, this collection has 
contained the papers of 
Nathaniel Henry Rhodes 

Dawson is typical of the 
sorts of persons about whom 
one would seek information 
in the Southern Historical 
Collection. Born in Char- 
leston, South Carolina, in 
1829, Dawson was the son of 
Lawrence E. and Mary 
Rhodes Dawson. He moved 
to Alabama in 1842, where 
he attended St. Joseph's Col- 
lege in Spring Hill. He be- 
came a lawyer in 1851 and 
moved to Selma, where he 
became a prominent citizen 
and a minor power in the 
Democratic party. Dawson 
married twice in the 1850's; 
both Annie E. (Mathews) 
Dawson and Mary E. (Tar- 
ver) Dawson bore him a 
child. In 1860, he was a dele- 
gate to the Democratic Na- 
tional Convention. In 1861, 
he volunteered as an officer 
in the Fourth Alabama 
Regiment of Volunteers. 
Dawson was elected to serve 
in the Alabama legislature 
in 1863. At the end of the war 
and his term in the legisla- 
ture, he obtained a pardon 
from President Andrew 
Johnson and resumed pri- 
vate law practice. His inter- 
est in politics continued. 
Dawson served as a mem- 
ber of various county, dis- 
trict, and state Democratic committees and as an elector for 
Horace Greeley's 1872 presidential ticket. In 1875, he became 
president of the Commercial Bank of Alabama and a year 
later was chosen as a trustee of the University of Alabama. In 

FIGURE 1. Elodie Todd 

1880, he was again elected to the state legislature, and in 1884, 
he became president of the state bar association. He died in 

What separates Dawson from the many Confederate sold- 
iers and Democratic politicians whose lives can be studied 
from documents in the Southern Historical Collection is his 
marriage in 1863 to Elodie Todd, for she was Mary Todd 
Lincoln's half sister. The letters that Dawson and Elodie ex- 
changed while they were en- 
gaged and he was away in 
the Confederate service are 
a source of information on 
the Todd family which has 
not been tapped, apparent- 
ly, by previous students of 
Lincoln's in-laws. William 
H. Townsend's Lincoln and 
the Bluegrass: Slavery and 
Civil War in Kentucky 
(Lexington: University of 
Kentucky Press, 1955), an 
updated version of his Lin; 
coin and His Wife's Home 
Town (Indianapolis: Bobbs- 
Merrill, 1929), contains no 
mention of the collection, 
though his book remains the 
best source of information 
on the Todd family. Ruth 
Painter Randall's Mary Lin- 
coln: Biography of a Mar- 
riage (Boston: Little, Brown, 
1953) relies heavily on 
Townsend's work for Mary's 
upbringing and makes no 
mention of the Dawson 
papers. Mrs. Abraham Lin- 
coln: A Study of Her Person- 
ality and Her Influence on 
Lincoln by W.A. Evans 
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 
1932) was an attempt at a 
psycho-biography of Mary 
Todd Lincoln and stressed 
the allegedly high inci- 
dence of mental instability 
in her family. However, 
Evans did not use Daw- 
son's papers and made a 
minor error of fact about 
Elodie Todd and N.H.R. 
Dawson. There is certainly 
nothing in the letters which 
upsets the work of these previous students of the Todd rela- 
tions. Nevertheless, there are confirmations of hunches about 
the Todd family and evidence on at least one aspect of the fam- 
ily's history that was not previously known. There is an inter- 

Courtesy of Lloyd Ostendorf 


esting portrait of two of Lincoln's in-laws who have previous- 
ly been little more than names. One can also gain a unique in- 
sight into the way the Confederate Todds viewed their Yan- 
kee sister and brother-in-law. 

Elodie Todd 

Elodie Todd was one of sixteen children sired by Robert 
Smith Todd of Lexington, Kentucky. She was the seventh of 
the eight children (who lived to maturity — another died in in- 
fancy) born to Robert S. Todd's second wife, Elizabeth Hum- 
phreys. Elodie was born in 1844, two years after her half sis- 
ter Mary Todd married Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Ill- 
inois. Mary was the fourth of six children (who lived to matur- 
ity — one died in infancy) by Eliza Parker, Todd's first wife. 
Since she had left home even before Elodie was born and since 
she was twenty-six years older, Mary and Elodie, though half 
sisters, were barely nodding acquaintances. The only times 
Elodie ever saw her sister Mary were in 1847, when the Lin- 
colns paid a visit to Lexington en route to Washington for Lin- 
coln to assume his seat in the House of Representatives; in 
1848, when Mary and the children returned to Lexington with- 
out Congressman Lincoln; and in 1849, when the Lincolns 
visited Lexington to attend to Robert S. Todd's estate (he died 
in 1849). Mary saw Elodie last, then, when her young half sis- 
ter was but five years old. 

There were, despite the lack of intimate acquaintance, some 
obvious family resemblances between Elodie and Mary Todd. 
They were both cultured and refined women. Elodie's accom- 
plishments were especially musical ones. She played the 
piano well and sang well. Dawson wrote her repeatedly, 
saying that he longed to be with her and to hear her sing and 
play tbe piano. Her talents were much in demand in Selma so- 
ciety to provide entertainment at various patriotic money- 
raising affairs during the war. Elodie wrote humorous letters 
and enjoyed society. She commented in May of 1861 on a local 
regiment "composed of the handsomest men [she] . . . ever 
saw & all seem to be selected gentlemen, & so happy & merry." 
In the same month she and her younger sister Kittie (Kather- 
ine) "went over to the Encampment. . . and spent a very plea- 
sant evening dancing until eleven oclock." She seemed pleas- 
ed that "the wit & beauty of Selma were assembled" at the 
ball. She kept up with political events and could weave them 
into her letters with sprightly humor. In a moment of light- 
hearted self-deprecation, Elodie claimed that her family had 
thought she would be an old maid who would stay home to 
take care of her mother after the "handsome daughters" were 
gone. "... I really believe," she added in reference to her 
engagement to Dawson, "they all think I am committing a sin 
to give a thought to any other than the arrangements they 
have made for me but as this is the age when Secession, Free- 
dom & rights are asserted, I am claiming mine & do not doubt 
but I shall succeed in obtaining them . . . ." She also pos- 
sessed some of the more controversial Todd traits, of which 
she showed an appealing self-awareness. Kidding Dawson 
again about their engagement, she said, "I told Mother that I 
thought she had better give her consent & approval at once, 
for my mind was made up & I felt myself more of a Todd than 
ever & they are noted for their determination or as malicious 
people would say obstinacy. . . ." On another occasion she ad- 
mitted to Dawson that her mother had "always predicted my 
Temper & Tongue would get me into Trouble. . . ." 

The Todd family itself was divided in some respects, and 
there were sharp differences between Elodie Todd and Mrs. 
Lincoln. The most obvious, of course, was that Elodie Todd 
was a staunch secessionist (only one of Eliza Parker's child- 
ren was a secessionist; only one of Elizabeth Humphreys's 
children was pro-Union). Elodie always referred to Lincoln's 
party as the "black Republicans," and she pictured the South- 
ern cause as a revolt against "Northern Tyranny" for the sake 
of liberty. On the Fourth of July, 1861, she exclaimed, ". . . 
what would we be without our liberty, the few left of us a poor 
unhappy set who would prefer death a thousand times to re- 
cognizing once a black Republican ruler." She called Lin- 
coln's 1860 Southern Democratic apponent, Kentuckian John 
C. Breckinridge, her "model for Politicians." Her zeal for 
Southern liberty grew with the progress of the war. In July, 
1861, after there had been the first large-scale fighting of a 
previously largely bloodless war, she wrote with unconscious 
irony, "I bave thought of the many who would & must die to 

purchase [liberty], . . . there is not a man among you who 
would not willingly prefer death to slavery. . . ." She did "not 
now think of peace for a moment, fighting alone can accom- 
plish our end and that hard & bloody." 

The young Kentuckian contributed more than hot words to 
the Confederate cause. She seems to have spent most of the 
time Dawson was in the service in sewing items for the Con- 
federate soldiers. She took the work seriously, spending so 
much time on it that she had little time left to spend in read- 
ing. After the merry entertainments of the early months after 
Sumter when there was little bloodshed, she deemed it impro- 
per to engage in wild merriment while the soldiers were suf- 
fering at the front. Dawson wrote her that he was "grateful. . . 
to know that you have such proper feelings in regard to 
amusements, at times when your friends are in danger — on 
the day [in question] . . . we were all day in line of battle, & on 
that night slept on our arms — It would mortify me to think 
that at such a time, you could enjoy the festivities of a ball 
room. . . ." 

Unlike her sister Mary, Elodie chose to marry a man, not of 
democratic manners and sentiments, but of an aristocratic, 
even snobbish, nature. When Dawson heard that one of Elo- 
die's brothers was thinking of joining the army, he cautioned 
him "not to join the ranks as a private — The duties are very 
arduous, he would not like them — a gentleman" would not 
find them at all suitable. By contrast, Abraham Lincoln had 
served in the Illinois militia in the Black Hawk War, first as a 
captain and later as a private. One cannot imagine the Rail- 
splitter's dispensing such advice for gentlemen. At the Battle 
of Bull Run, Dawson was separated from his unit and in the 
confusion of battle could not find it to rejoin it. Rumors circu- 
lated back home in Selma that he had been seen "walking 
fast" away from the battle. Dawson was incensed at the al- 
legation of cowardice and quickly attributed it to envy. The 
problem with the man Dawson thought responsible for cir- 
culating the rumor was that he "envied all above him ...[■] 
He envies me I know. ..." He attributed the rumors on 
another occasion to "the people, who are generally anxious to 
believe evil of gentlemen." 

Although his aristocratic code taught him a paternalistic 
regard for those below him, Dawson did not admire the 
masses. As an officer, he did try to set an example for his men 
by sharing their hardships. On long marches he wore a knap- 
sack with a heavy overcoat rolled on it, just as the soldiers did. 
On an eighteen-mile march, he went on foot even though a 
gentleman-friend offered him a horse and buggy. He did not 
prove, on this occasion, equal to the task, and the amusing 
outcome was reported to his fiancee with no self-conscious 
irony at all: "My feet were so blistered [and] swollen & I was so 
much fatigued, that I got a room, at a hotel, & went to bed & 
was unable to come on here, until this morning — I am very 
lame, have taken a violent cold, have been in bed . . . ." Daw- 
son saw it as his duty to "visit the hospital daily to see our sick 
& always have my heart made sad — The pallets are occupied, 
with men, who are wan looking objects ...[.] I always try to 
cheer them up, but it is a difficult duty." There was appar- 
ently no chaplain in the Fourth Alabama, and Dawson as- 
sumed the duty of shepherd to his flock. "On Sundays," he ex- 
plained, "I read several chapters of the bible to as many of my 
men, as choose to come in, and we have some good vocal music 
. . . [.]" Nevertheless, he commented also on "the depravity of 
our soldiers ...[.] I do not think any other feeling than one of 
duty could induce me, with my present feelings, to adopt war 
as my occupation. . . ." 

Dawson took an aristocrat's pride in his family's accom- 

FIGURE 2. (facing page 2) Colonel Elmer Ephraim 
Ellsworth must certainly have been the most famous 
Colonel in the Civil War. Vignettes of his death, por- 
traits of Ellsworth, pictures of his avenger, and mot- 
toes invoking his memory appeared on many different 
patriotic envelopes during the Civil War. South- 
erners, as the Elodie Todd-N. H. R. Dawson corres- 
pondence reveals, also considered his death some- 
thing of a sensation and interpreted it as divine retri- 
bution for invading their country. Three patriotic 
envelopes featuring Ellsworth are pictured on the 
facing page. 


Rildisln-a l.y Chj'Alugiuis, lii Frankfurt Si NY. 


Ml-!-. U.L-- lm-;Va,til thfil A . J j J siinl«AmAVu7iai-uT'.lC. r ii-1HSl. BHnl AfBltTMlfle iiiTCLnli .''l i-Xlfo 

The first officer killed in the Revoluliun. The first officer killed in i be present Rebellion. 

From the Lincoln National Life Foundation 


plishments. Honors came to aristocrats without any unseem- 
ly striving. "My father," said Dawson, "always declined poli- 
tical position, tho' he had inducements offered that would 
have lured a more ambitious man — He was the contempor- 
ary & peer of Mr Barnwell & Mr Rhett — their acknowledged 
superior & leader at the bar — He always advised me to pursue 
the law exclusively. . . ." He shared his Victorian culture's 
sentimental veneration of women (and especially of mother- 
hood), and his aristocratic feelings made the female's ideal 
role particularly circumscribed, ethereal, and retiring: 
God, who made man, saw that woman alone could fill the 
gasping void of companionship, in his bosom, and also 
created her, that her love might teach him the love he should 
bear to his creator — I do not think men could have received 
the Gospel, without the inspiring faith of the gentler sex to 
level him to an appreciation of their truth — All of the virtu- 
ous impulses, I ever feel, are attributable to the teachings of 
my sainted mother and the influence of your sex — without 
them I would have been a barbarian ...[.] 
Three weeks later he advised his fiancee thus: 

I hope you will not become Secretary [?] for any aid So- 
ciety — The ladies have been very useful & kind, but I would 
prefer that you remain an independent contributor — I am 
opposed to all female societies, as I have never seen one, not 
even a Bible or Church Society, where unpleasant contro- 
versies did not arise — a lady should let her influence al- 
ways be felt, in all good works, but she should never expose 
herself to the calumnies of the evil minded. . . . 
To be sure, Dawson encouraged the same kind of responsibi- 
lity for inferiors among women as men: 
I rejoice that you agree with me about societies of all kinds — 
I never wish to see you a member of one — but will always de- 
sire that you should do your full share in works of charity 
and benevolence — The poor will always, if my wishes influ- 
ence, call you friend ...[.] 

An aristocrat's disdain for ambitious money-getting, a 
Democrat's traditional distrust of monopoly, and a patriot's 
dislike of selfishness in the midst of national crisis, all com- 
bined to make Dawson an enemy of wartime speculators. Salt 
was a precious commodity in the blockaded, undeveloped, 
one-crop South, and the "salt monopoly" apparently became a 
hot topic in Civil War Selma. It was a question which greatly 
excited Dawson: 
... I wish these speculators could be forced into the service 
of the country & made to shew their patriotism in a better 
mode — I have no [illeg.] of such Shylocks, & I hope Public 
Opinion will bring them back to their propriety — The State 
should permit no speculation, by monopolists in articles of 
. . . necessity— In some parts of this state [Virginia] these 
"salt mice" have been threatened by Judge Lynch — Salt 
has been scarce here in the army on account of this dis- 
graceful monopoly — Such heartless men are not friendly to 
the Confederate states . . . f .] 
This was not just a temporary attitude bred of wartime emer- 
gency for Dawson. His aristocratic code dictated a disdain for 
new money. Commenting on a visit to Raleigh, North Caro- 
lina, in 1862, Dawson said, "Judging from all I see, I should 
say the society of Raleigh was cultivated [and] refined — in op- 
position to what we are so frequently disgusted with in new 
communities — tinsel pretension — Family has its influence, & 
parvenues are properly appreciated ...[.] I have learned to 
hate the blatant democracy of our society — which would re- 
duce any gentleman to insignificance — or to an infamous 
equality. . . ." 

To complete the picture, Dawson was, as most of the self- 
styled Southern aristocracy were, a member of the Episcopal 
Cburch. He prided himself on reading "the English classics." 
He copied the ideals and ways of the English gentry, adopted 
their dislike of parvenues, and shared their idealization of a 
lower class that knew its place: 
The poor private in the ranks, who bears uncomplainingly, 
all of his privations, must leave a deep well of patriotic feel- 
ing — I look at them frequently with admiration — Many of 
them have wife & children, at home, dependent on charity, 
& yet, they seem content — No country can be strong, with- 
out such a peasantry — or yeomanry — as we say in 
English. . . [.] 

Views of Lincoln 

N.H.R. Dawson, of course, had never met Mr. and Mrs. 
Abraham Lincoln. Elodie did not know them well. The first 
mentions of the brother-in-law, now President of an enemy na- 
tion, were in a lighthearted vein in keeping with the early view 
that there might not be a war at all and that, if there were one, 
it would be of brief duration and be settled by one great battle. 
Dawson wrote Elodie from Virginia on May 8, 1861, asking 
her, "Can't you prevail upon your brother in Law, A.L. to 
change his policy, & make peace [?]" Two days later, Dawson 
said he thought the war would be short because the North 
would soon see how ridiculous it was to think of subjugating 
the South: "The idea of subjugating us must be preposterous, 
and I think, if I could be allowed to have the ear of my future 
brother in law, I could persuade him to abandon the idea; if he 
ever entertained it — Cant you use your influence or get your 
sister Miss Kittie [a very young teenager] to use hers [?]" 

Six days later, Dawson was still ringing changes on the hu- 
morous possibilities involved in the situation. He stated his 
wish that Elodie would write Mrs. Lincoln "so that in case of 
being taken prisoner I will not be too severely dealt with — Do 
you not think it was a very politic step in me to engage such an 
advocate at the head quarters of the Enemy." Elodie replied in 
the same bantering vein, ". . . pray do you think to inform 
Brother Abe would do you any good, he would make you suf- 
fer for yourself my being such a secessionist too." 

By another coincidence, Kittie had a nodding acquain- 
tance with Colonel Elmer Ellsworth of the Seventh New York 
Regiment. Elodie wrote Dawson to report that "Kittie says if 
you take her beau Colonel Ellsworth prisoner just send him to 
her & she will see that he does not escape . . . [.]" Dawson re- 
plied that he would not "let her throw herself away on Col. 
Ellsworth — as she must have a confederate Col. for her beau 
. . . [.]" This joke ended in tragedy and bitterness when Ells- 
worth became the first casualty of the Civil War. Dawson 
wrote in a somewhat unfeeling vein: 
I hope Miss Kate was not interested in him, more than in an 
ordinary acquaintance — You know he exhorted his sold- 
iers to invade the South & provided [promised ?] them 
"beauty & booty" — Providence seems to have cut him off, 
as soon as he touched our soil, and it will not surprise me, if 
the army, led on by hate, does not meet the same fate — 
There is great bitterness felt on our side, & we will kill all 
that we can lay our hands on . . . [.] 
One day later he wrote in an even more bitter mood: "I rejoice 
that the 7 New York Reg was the first to be cut to pieces, & I 
hope a similar fate awaits all the enemies of my country — You 
will be surprised that I am so vengeful, but the invasion of Va. 
has stirred my blood — and, I think it would be a pleasure to 
meet our enemies in martial combat . . . [.]" Elodie later in- 
formed Dawson that Ellsworth "was only an acquaintance of 
Kittie's [.]" 

Political disagreements could not help but color the view 
these Southerners took of their famous Northern relation. The 
correspondence began to take on a slightly grimmer tone after 
Colonel Ellsworth's death. "Kittie is writing to Sister Mary 
(Mrs Abe Lincoln)," she told Dawson, "and I requested her to 
mention the fact of my being interested in you & should you 
fall into the hands of the [black republicans ?], hope you will 
be kindly received, presented with a passport to leave King 
Abe's Kingdom & returned to me with care but I am fearful 
since Ellsworth's death that the Southerners will fare badly if 
they get within their clutches and hope you will keep as far as 
possible from them . . . [.]" 

Though she had previously denounced "Northern Tyran- 
ny," Elodie had not yet spread the charge to her brother-in- 
law, but the phrase "King Abe" broke the ice. However, such 
epithets remained uncharacteristic of Elodie's correspond- 
ence and, when used, were always kept within the realm of 
party politics and governmental policy. She never denounced 
Lincoln's personal character. With her this was an important 
and sensitive matter of principle: 

(Continued in next issue) 

Lincoln Lore 

Bulletin of The Lincoln National Life Foundation . . . Mark E. Neely, Jr., Editor. Published each month 
by The Lincoln National Life Insurance Company, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46801. 

October, 1975 

Number 1652 


. . . there is not one of us that cherish an unkind thought or 
feeling toward him and for this reason we feel as acutely 
every remark derogatory to him, except as a President. I 
never go in Public that my feelings are not pounded or are 
we exempt in Matt's own home for people constantly wish 
he may be hung & all such evils may attend his footsteps. 
We would be devoid of all feeling or sympathy did we not feel 
for them & had we no love for Mary, would love or respect 
her as the daughter of a Father much loved & whose mem- 
ory is fondly cherished by those who were little children 
when he died I wish I were not so sensitive but it is decided 
weakness of the entire family and to struggle against it 
seems for naught... [.] 
One detects an undertone of feeling that he had been properly 
chastised — perhaps in his switch from the overly familiar 
"Abe" to "'Mr. Lincoln" — in Dawson's reply: "I am really glad 
that you have such feelings about Mr Lincoln — I have never 
been able to entertain for him any unkindness, save as an 
enemy to my country — I have never believed the slanders up- 
on him as a man — & ac- 
cord to him the respect 
that is due a gentle- 
man — It would indeed be 
strange if you felt other- 
wise, & did not love your 
sister . . . [.]" 

Despite granting Pre- 
sident Lincoln the ulti- 
mate compliment avail- 
able in N. H. R. Daw- 
son's vocabulary, call- 
ing him a "gentleman," 
the Alabama soldier 
could not help interpret- 
ing the Lincoln adminis- 
tration from his own 
Southern aristocratic 
viewpoint. For a long 
time, Dawson thought 
that Lincoln would be un- 
able to prosecute the war 
as soon as Northern so- 
ciety realized the ex- 
pense involved in rais- 
ing armies. "It is 
thought," Dawson re- 
ported to Elodie, "that 
the financial difficulties 
of Mr Lincoln will be so 
great as to embarrass the 
plans of the campaign — 
I hope that the Capital- 
ists will not be willing to 
open their coffers to his 
draughts. Our Armies 
will fight without pay 
. . . [.]" Dawson was 

Courtesy I 

FIGURE 1. N. H. R. Dawson 

clearly a believer in the Southern picture of the North as a 
dollar-conscious Yankee kingdom of selfish grab and gain. 
Romantically, he believed the South so untainted by mater- 
ialism that even the common soldiers would fight without 
pay. Despite being a politician himself, Dawson's aristocrat- 
ic ideal of politics ruled out party ambition (hence his father's 
refusal to serve, though he was a better lawyer than Rhett and 
Barnwell, famous South Carolina political leaders). He 
thought in July of 1861, that "Mr Lincoln should now rise 
above party & give peace to the country — but I fear he will not 
be equal to the position — He is too much a party man — I say 
this, my own dear girl, knowing how you feel, & with no idea 
that it will give you pain . . . [.]" 

Elodie Todd replied to Dawson's cautious defamation of 
Lincoln's political character in a none-too-protective way: 
I do not think of peace and know well Mr Lincoln is not man 
enough to dare to make it, he is but a tool in the hands of his 
Party and would not brave their wrath by such a proposi- 
tion, how nobly he could redeem himself if he had the cour- 
age he is no more fitted 
for the office than 
many others who have 
recently occupied it 
and we may date our 
trouble from the time 
when we allowed Party 
to place in the chair a 
President entirely dis- 
regarding his worth 
ability or capacity for 
it, and I hope our Con- 
federacy may guard 
against it . . . [.] 
Mary Todd's sister then 
revealed the strength of 
family ties in the aristo- 
cratic Todd clan by ad- 
mitting her double stan- 
dard for judging the 
Todd family: 
I could not be offended 
at your remarks con- 
cerning Mr L — Know- 
ing they were not in- 
tended more for him 
than for his party or 
than for any other Blk 
Rep. President, and 
you do not say as much 
as I do, tho' that is a 
privilege I allow my- 
self exclusively, to 
abuse my relations as 
much as I desire but no 
one else can do the 
same before me or even 
say a word against 

/ North Carolina Library, 
Chapel Hill 



By and large, Elodie Todd and N. H. R. Dawson as well were 
true to this standard — even to the extent of disbelieving any- 
thing they read in the newspapers which reflected poorly on 
Mary Todd. On July 22, 1861, she wrote one of the harshest ap- 
praisals of Mary Todd that appears anywhere in her corres- 
I see from today's paper Mrs. Lincoln is indignant at my 
Brother David's being in the Confederate Service and de- 
clares "that by no word or act of hers would he escape pun- 
ishment for his treason against her husband's government 
should he fall into their hands" — I do not believe she ever 
said it — & if she did & meant it she is no longer a Sister of 
mine, nor deserves to be called a woman of nobleness & 
truth & God grant my noble & brave hearted brother will 
never fall into their hands & have to suffer death twice over, 
and he could do nothing which would make me prouder of 
him, than he is doing now fighting for his country, what 
would she do to me do you suppose, I have so much to an- 
swer for? 
Her fiancee replied with a letter which indicates that Dawson 
might have been less restrained in his appraisal of Lincoln 
had he not felt that he must be careful of Elodie's touchy Todd 
family pride: 
I do not believe that Mrs Lincoln ever expressed herself, as 
you state, about your brother David. — If she did, it is in very 
bad taste, and in worse temper — and unlike all the repre- 
sentations I ha ve seen of her character — But you will learn , 
my dearest, that a wife, soon becomes wrapped up in the for- 
tunes of her husband & will tolerate in her relations no op- 
position to his wishes ...[.] 
Was Dawson hinting that Elodie might some day sever her 
loyalties from the Todd family and share a more "objective" 
view of the narrow party politician in the White House? 

If Dawson thought so, he was quite wrong. In a dramatic 
episode, Elodie proved her loyalty to the Todd family name. In 
December of 1861, Selma citizens staged a "Tableau," a sort of 
costume charade in which living people staged a motionless 
picture, to raise money for a local regiment. Elodie was in- 
vited and intended to go, until she saw the programme: 
... I see my Brotherinlaw Mr Lincoln is to be introduced 
twice I have declined as all my feeling & self respect have 
not taken wings & flown. I must confess that I have never 
been more hasty or indignant in my life than since the last 
step has been taken. What have we done to deserve this at- 
tempt to personally insult & wound our feelings in so public 
a manner. We have suffered what they never have and per- 
haps never will in severing ties of blood ...[.] Dr. Kendree 
and Mrs Kendree last summer proposed that in one of the 
Tableaux we should introduce the two Scenes which they 
propose entertaining their audience with Tuesday night 
and I then in their own home showed the indignation that I 
felt at a proposition made to wound me. . . . [they wished] 
Mr Lincoln would be caught & hung . . . that was enough 
but I feel I can never feel kindly again toward those who 
take part in this, you do not know all we have taken from 
some of the people of this place, no not one half and pride 
has kept us from shewing them what we felt, I am afraid I 
shall never love Selma and I feel thankful that I am not de- 
pendent on its inhabitants for my happiness, hereafter I 
will stay to myself and keep out of the . . . way of those to 
whom my presence seems to be obnoxious ...[.] 
Elodie did stay home and apparently suffered a period of 
ostracism which severed her relations with her neighbors in 
Selma. Dawson tried to smooth over the difficulty as well as 
he could, explaining that Lincoln had become the "personifi- 
cation" of the enemy, but Elodie continued to complain bitter- 
ly about Selma, much to Dawson's obvious irritation. Todd 
family pride was a powerful force. 

The Todd Family: A Startling Revelation 

Most historians have assumed that Mary Todd Lincoln 
took an interest in political affairs that was extraordinary for 
a woman in her day because politics had been such a large and 
natural part of the Todd family life. Her father, Robert S. 
Todd, had been a politician himself. Lexington, though not 
the state capital, was an intensely political town because one 
of its citizens, Henry Clay, was a long-time contender for the 
United States Presidency. Todd was apparently associated 
with local men of ambition who wished to see Clay become 
President. As William Townsend has shown, Todd was in- 
volved in bitter political disputes because he supported the 
1833 Kentucky law forbidding the importation of slaves into 
the state for purposes of sale. Some supporters of the law, writ- 
ten at the height of anti-slavery feeling within the South itself, 
argued that, without fresh infusions of black population, the 
slave power in the state would wither and eventually emanci- 
pate the slaves. Powerful pro-slavery interests in the state 
fought for the repeal of the nonimportation law and gained it 
just before Todd's death. When he ran for office, Todd receiv- 
ed the bitter denunciation of the pro-slavery interests for 
being what he was not, an emancipationist. Thus Mary and 
the other Todd children knew the bitterness of politics as well 
as the satisfactions of being a family thought worthy of repre- 
senting their community's political interests. Nevertheless, it 
is assumed that Mary gained a love of politics from the parti- 
san milieu of her early life. 

N. H. R. Dawson debated, while in the army, whether he 
should become a politician or devote himself to law practice 
when he ended his tour of duty. In May of 1861, he asked his 
finacee what her feelings were about his future career. Duti- 
fully, Elodie replied that she would be content with either 
choice. "One might suppose," she said, "to behold Mr Lin- 
coln's Political career that my family would be contect with 
Politics I am used to such a life My Father having followed 
such a one himself." When he asked again, he got a very dif- 
ferent answer from Robert S. Todd's young daughter: 
As to a Political life I think almost any choice preferable 
and more conducive to happiness, it is a life of trials vexa- 
tions & cares, and in the end a grand disappointment to all 
the [illeg.] & purposes of the Politician himself & of his 
friends, that [there ?] are a few empty honors [nor] do they 
compensate when gained, for the trouble of a laborious life 
to please the World, which does indeed turn every day your 
friends today, your foes tomorrow, ready to tarnish your fair 
name with any untruth that will serve to promote party pur- 
poses. I know my Father's life was embittered after the 
selection of a Political life was made by his friends for him & 
he accepted it and after all the sacrifices he made for them & 
to acquire for himself Fame & a name which lived only a few 
years after he slumbered in his grave, and it was well he did 
not live longer to plunge deeper in for every other life had 
lost its charm and there was but the one that added he 
thought to his happiness. Yet I am wrong I expect to judge 
all by the few I have known to be otherwise than happy in 
such a choice, as much depends upon disposition and any 
life may have proved to have had the same effect . . . [.] 
This is a remarkable letter which ones does not know quite 
how to interpret. It is, in the first place, the letter of a seven- 
teen-year-old girl. It is, in the second place, the letter of a girl 
who was but five years old when her father died. Therefore, it 
is not altogether to be trusted. 

Nevertheless, it is a unique view of a family which has re- 
mained shrouded in mystery and deserves careful consider- 
ation. It is unclear whether Robert S. Todd was truly embitter- 
ed before his death (though Elodie says so) or whether the 
family projected their own bitterness, derived from the speed 
with which his fame faded after his death, onto their memory 
of Robert Todd. Such an interpretation would be congruent 


with Elodie's statement that what name he gained faded 
quickly after his death and with the fact that she surely learn- 
ed of this bitterness from her family long after her father's 
death. Probably a girl of five was unable to understand a 
bitterness bred of political chicanery. 

Whether Elodie's view of politics and of her father's poli- 
tical career should cause us to reevaluate Mary Todd's alleged 
love of politics is a still more difficult question. Mary left home 
before her father engaged in the heated campaign for the state 
senate in 1845, in which Todd denounced his opponent as a 
man in a "fit of malice and desperation," "an habitual and 
notorious falsifier, an unscrupulous and indiscriminate 
calumniator, reckless alike of fame, of honor, and of truth," 
and a "miserable old man" who engaged in "unprovoked as- 
saults, unfounded charges and illiberal insinuations." She 
was away in Springfield when her father was called by his op- 
ponent a "w^eak and vicious" man of "craven spirit" who 
worked as a legislator in the lower house to gain favors for the 
Branch Bank of Kentucky of which Todd was himself the pre- 
sident. Moreover, Robert S. Todd died in the midst of a cam- 
paign for reelection to the Kentucky Senate, and those of his 
family who were with him may somehow have blamed the 
campaigning for killing him. Especially to a child of five, it 
may have seemed as though whatever it was that took the 
father away from the house all the time on business (cam- 
paigning) simply took him away forever. From all these 
feelings and emotions Mary Todd Lincoln could well have 

been quite immune. She may therefore have imbibed a love of 
politics from the early career of a father whose later career 
and death in the midst of campaigning left younger members 
of the family bitter about the profession of politics. 

Other intimate glimpses of the Todd family provide inter- 
esting food for thought. Dawson seems to have been a devout 
man who took his Episcopalianism seriously as religion and 
not merely as a badge of his status in Southern society. He 
was distressed that Elodie, although she attended church, 
was not a full-fledged member. Elodie's professions of lack of 
adequate faith sound a bit perfunctory, but the subject 
appeared often enough in her letters to indicate genuine con- 
cern. "It was not necessary," she told her finacee in a typical 
passage, "for you to ask me to pray for you as I have not allow- 
ed a day to pass without doing so, nor will not, altho' my pray- 
ers may not be heard & I regret each day more & more that I 
am not a good christian, as such my prayers might be of some 
avail, but I fear the life I have lead, does not entitle me to hope 
for much and it is so hard to be good. . . ." Dawson was quite 
concerned, and her reluctance in the face of urgings like this 
one surely betokened serious thought on the subject: "... I 
know that you have all the purity— all the essential qualifica- 
tions — that would authorize you to take this step — that you 
are in all things, save the public confession — a^ chris- 
tian . . . [.]" There may have been some religious confusion 
among all the Todd children. Elodie's mother took her to the 
Presbyterian Church, but Elodie had gone to the Episcopal 

FIGURE 2. The Todd home in Lexington is to be restored soon. 

From the Lincoln National Life Foundation 


Church at some time in her past. It will be remembered that 
Mary Todd Lincoln became a Presbyterian after her original 
Episcopalian affiliations. Elodie's confusion was doubtless 
increased by the fact that Dawson would have preferred her 
choosing the Episcopal Church, though he most wanted her to 
choose to make a full commitment for some church. 

Elodie Todd's letters also seem to indicate that the family 
was a close-knit and happy one. "We have always been happy 
together," she told Dawson, "and never known what the feel- 
ing was that prompted others to always seek happiness away 
from home, and to feel miserable when compelled to remain 
there." Of course, Elodie did not have the experience Mary 
had, of gaining a new mother who was disliked by Mary's own 
grandmother. For Elodie, though, there was only one prob- 
lematical member of the family. 
Dr. George Todd is my Father's youngest son by his first 
marriage, but an almost total stranger to me for in my whole 
life I have never seen him but twice, the first time he was a 
practicing Physician, the next after my Father's death and 
owing then to some unpleasant family disturbances, there 
has never since existed between the older members of my 
family and himself & his older brother the same feeling as 
before or that is felt for our sisters I was too young at the 
time to even understand why the feeling was. When he 
called on [brother] David in Richmond, David would not see 
him or recognize him this I feel sorry for and hope they will 
yet make friends ...[.] 
It was little wonder that the other Todd children hated 
George. Robert S. Todd had written a will, but George contest- 
ed it successfully on the technical grounds that there was only 
one witness to the document. This was a direct blow at Robert 
S. Todd's widow and the second batch of children because it 
meant the bulk of the estate, instead of passing to Mrs. Todd, 
had to be liquidated and divided among all the children. It 
speaks well for Mrs. Todd's restraint or for Elodie's loyalty to 
the family name that the young girl was seemingly unaware 
of what George had done and hoped there would be a recon- 
ciliation between him and other members of the family. Other- 
wise, Elodie made no distinctions in sisterly affection for all 
the children, whether by the first or second marriage. 

It is somewhat surprising to find a member of the Todd fam- 
ily so violently anti-English as Elodie was. It was almost more 
than she could bear to have to hope that England would inter- 
vene in the Confederacy's behalf. On February 1, 1862, she 
wrote Dawson that she wished "we would have Peace or that 
France & England would recognize us, if they intend to, I con- 
fess I have little patience left, and wish we could take our time 
in allowing them to recognize the Confederate States. I hope 
they will pay for their tardiness in giving an enormous price, 
but I should not be so spiteful, but I never could tolerate the 
English and will not acknowledge like some members of the 
Family that [we] are of English descent, I prefer being Irish 
and certainly possess some Irish traits. . . ." Not only does 
this passage inform us of a peculiar difference of opinion with- 
in the family in regard to England, it also reminds us of what 
is easy to forget: Confederate diplomacy was unnatural. 
Southerners, at least the Presbyterian ones, hated England as 
much as Northerners did, and their desire for rescue by Eng- 
land was pure expedience. It showed in the King Cotton 
theory of diplomacy as well: it was surely an odd way to make 
friends with England by denying her the Southern cotton she 
needed for her mills. 

Only part of Elodie's alienation from Selma, Alabama, 
stemmed from her feud over the proper limits for criticizing 
her brother-in-law. Elodie considered herself a Kentuckian, 
and she had trouble all along developing any enthusiasm for 
her fiancee's home town in Alabama. She suffered agonies 
over Kentucky's reluctance to secede and join the other Con- 
federate states. She delivered tongue-lashings to those Ala- 
bamans unlucky enough to criticize Kentucky in her pre- 

sence, and she followed the career of Kentucky's John C. 
Breckinridge closely. Whether all the Todd children felt such 
an intense identification with their native state is an interest- 
ing question with interesting implications. Might Abraham 
Lincoln's Kentucky background have been more important to 
Mary Todd than we have previously realized? 


N. H. R. Dawson reenlisted once his original term of service 
was up. He led a cavalry unit in the late part of the war. Elodie 
chided herself for her selfishness in wishing that he would 
stay home and realized that she must not interfere with her 
husband's sense of duty to Alabama and the Confederacy. 
Dawson must hardly ever have been at home in the early 
period of their marriage, for he attended sessions of the state 
legislature and led the cavalry when the legislature was in 

Mrs. Dawson made other adjustments to her husband's 
ways. She lived in Selma the rest of her life. She must also 
have made her peace with Mr. Dawson's interest in politics, 
for he never ceased to dabble in politics. She never repudiated 
her identification with Southern interests or her secessionist 
sympathies. She became a leader of the movement to erect a 
Confederate monument in Selma's Live Oak Cemetery. In 
fact, she defied her husband's dislike of female volunteer 
societies and became president of the Ladies' Memorial Asso- 
ciation of Selma. One could not have predicted this assump- 
tion of leadership in Selma society in the period of her with- 
drawal from a society which had insulted a Todd brother-in- 
law. She bore N. H. R. Dawson two children. In 1877, she died 
and was buried near the Confederate monument she had 
helped to build. 

Courtesy of J. Winston Coleman. Jr. 

FIGURE 3. Dr. George Todd, the black sheep. 

Lincoln Lore 

Bulletin of The Lincoln National Life Foundation. ..Mark E. Neely, Jr., Editor. Published each month 
by The Lincoln National Life Insurance Company, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46801. 

March, 19"/ 

Number 1669 

The Contents of Lincoln's Pockets 
at Ford's Theatre 

On February 12, 1976, the Library of Congress revealed the 
contents of the '"mystery box" containing the contents of 
Abraham Lincoln's pockets the night he was assassinated. 
The dramatic timing of the announcement — on Lincoln's 
birthday in the nation's bicentennial year — led to its being 
widely noted in the press. All over the nation people read that 
Lincoln had carried a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles en- 
graved by their donor Ward Hill Lamon, another pair of fold- 
ing spectacles in a silver case, an ivory pocket knife, a fancy 
watch fob, a large white Irish linen handkerchief with his 
name embroidered on it in red cross-stich, an initialed sleeve 
button, and a brown leather wallet. The wallet proved to con- 

tain probably the most startling item, a five-dollar Con- 
federate note, and nine old newspaper clippings. The news- 
paper clippings were dismissed in the news releases with little 
comment beyond saying that the President could perhaps be 
forgiven for the minor vanity of carrying old adulatroy news 
items in his pockets. 

None of the accounts of the opening which I read — and I 
read several because I happened to be travelling across the 
country at the time and saw several different newspapers — 
bothered to recount even the titles of the articles from Lin- 
coln's wallet. Curiosity was too much to bear, and I wrote the 
Library of Congress to find out what the articles said. They 

and as for the othc 

John Bcll. "Why don't you ride the other Horse a bit? He's the beat Animal." 

Brother Jonathan. "Well, that may be; but the fact is, Oli> Abe is just where I can put my finger on hire 
though they say he's some when out in the scrub yonder — I never know where to find him." 

From the Lincton National Life Foundation 

FIGURE 1. John Bright was of a different mind, but most Americans assumed that most Englishmen, like John Bull 
in this 1864 cartoon from Harper's Weekly, supported McClellan rather than Lincoln in the election of 1864. 


TV ' * ■*' ' 

From the Linclon National Life Foundation 

FIGURE 2. Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) was 
probably the most conspicuous clergyman of his day. 

were able to produce photographs of seven of the articles; two 
are in too poor shape to be taken to the photographer, ap- 

I was glad I wrote when I received the photographs. Con- 
trary to what I had been led to believe by the press coverage, 
only two of the articles were merely pieces of praise for the 
President. The other five, though they were not critical, dealt 
essentially with other subjects. Presumably, we may inter- 
pret these articles as indications of some of the problems 
which engaged the President during the last year of his ad- 
ministration. It would be wrong to place too much emphasis 
upon them j ust because Lincoln retained them so long ( none of 
the clippings was from a newspaper printed immediately be- 
fore the assassination). He was a man of notoriously disor- 
derly habits whose office filing system as a lawyer had con- 
sisted of a bundle of legal papers tied together with a note writ- 
ten by Lincoln, "If you can't find it anywhere else look in 
here." Still, he showed enough initial interest to clip the ar- 
ticles or at least to retain them in his wallet once given them 
by others. 

It is interesting to note the sort of praise which the Presi- 
dent valued. Two of the clippings contained nothing but 
praise, it is true, but the praise came from two quarters where 
Lincoln had not proven popular in the past. An account of 
Henry Ward Beecher's address at the Academy of Music in 
Philadelphia told "how strong a hold the President has upon 
the popular heart throughout the loyal North." Beecher had 
written a series of editorials in 1862 which were, from his own 
recollection, "in the nature of a mowing-machine — they cut 
at every revolution — and I was told one day that the Presi- 
dent had received them and read them through with very 
serious countenance, and that his only criticism was: 'Is thy 
servant a dog?' They bore down on him very hard." Things 
were very different in 1864, and Beecher told his Philadelphia 
audience that Lincoln's prosecution of the war had been effec- 

tive. When an incidental mention of Andrew Jackson seemed 
to bring forth audience interest, Beecher exploited his open- 
ing by saying, "Abraham Lincoln may be a great deal less 
testy and wilful than Andrew Jackson, but in a long race, I do 
not know but that he will be equal to him." This was followed 
by a "storm of applause" which "seemed as if it never would 
cease." Philadelphia would go for Lincoln in the election of 
1864, but Beecher had sensed the campaign strategy which 
would work in this negrophobic home of General McClellan. 
The stress would have to be put on Lincoln's Jacksonian 
qualities as a stern and uncompromising foe of separatism. 
The election would not be a referendum on the popularity of 
emancipation and the Republican platform's commitment to 
the Thirteenth Amendment — if it could be avoided. 

A large photograph of John Bright, the British liberal, hung 
in the anteroom of Lincoln's office in the White House. Doubt- 
less, the President was gratified to read the clipping about 
"John Bright on the Presidency." In a letter written to Horace 
Greeley before the election of 1864, Bright observed that 
"those of my countrymen who have wished well to the rebel- 
lion, who have hoped for the break-up of your Union, who 
have preferred to see a Southern Slave Empire rather than a 
restored and free Republic, . . . are now in favor of the election 
of Gen. McClellan." On the other hand, "those who have 
deplored the calamities which the leaders of secession have 
brought upon your country, who believe that Slavery weakens 
your power and tarnishes your good name throughout the 
world, and who regard the restoration of your Union as a 
thing to be desired and prayed for by all good men, . . . are 
heartily longing for the re-election of Mr. Lincoln." Lincoln's 
election would prove that republican countries could survive 
"through the most desperate perils." 

Lincoln seems to have been taking a keen interest in the 
state of Confederate morale. Two of the clippings dealt with 
this subject. Both carried the news that disaffection among 
the Confederate soldiers was high. "The Disaffection Among 
the Southern Soldiers" republished a letter from the Toledo 
Blade which had been "picked up in the streets of Brandon, 
Mississippi, by Captain Dinnis, of the 62nd Ohio Regiment." 
Dated July 16, 1863, the letter complained of "the vacillating 
policy and hollow promises" by which the soldiers had been 
"duped so long." With no provisions prepared along the route 
of retreat, the army was moving slowly. The Confederates 
paroled at Vicksburg were deserting. "The negro emancipa- 
tion policy," the letter continued, "at which we so long hooted, 
is the most potent lever of our overthrow. It steals upon us un- 
awares, and ere we can do anything the plantations are de- 
serted, families without servants, camps without necessary 
attendants, women and children in want and misery. In short, 
the disadvantages to us now arising from the negroes are ten- 
fold greater than have been all the advantages derived from 
earlier in the war." Certainly, this was welcome vindication of 
Lincoln's policy of emancipation, which had been justified 
precisely on the grounds that it would weaken the Southern 
war effort. 

"A Conscript's Epistle to Jeff. Davis" shows the Presi- 
dent's interests in rather a different light. This article also 
purported to reprint a captured Confederate letter, but the let- 
ter was much more satirical in tone and surely spoke in part at 
least to Lincoln's love for rough humor. Addressing the Con- 
federate President as "Jeff., Red Jacket of the Gulf, and Chief 
of the Six Nations," one Norman Harold of Ashe County, 
North Carolina, expressed his desire to desert the "adored 
trinity" of the Confederacy, "cotton, niggers, and chivalry." 
He denounced Davis in mock-monarchical-reverence as the 
"Czar of all Chivalry and Khan of Cotton Tartary," as "the 
illegitimate son of a Kentucky horse-thief," and as the "bas- 
tard President of a political abortion." In the end he ex- 
pressed the "exquisite joy" which the soldiers would express 
when Davis "shall have reached that eminent meridian 
whence all progress is perpendicular." Surely Lincoln found 
in all this exaggerated bombast some gratification that his 
Confederate counterpart would bear the burden of outrageous 
vilification that Lincoln himself had on occasion to bear. Here 
were the same accusations of monarchical pretensions. And 
here were the same doubts of proper Kentucky paternity. It 
must have been reassuring to find that this was the token of 
partisan discontent and not the result of reasoned and careful 


research into the biographical backgrounds of Presidents. 

Lincoln also carried with him "Sherman's Orders For His 
March," a straightforward reprinting of the military com- 
mander's outline for his campaign. Lincoln must have 
realized the great importance of these orders, which consti- 
tuted the beginnings of a new era in military history. General 
Sherman carefully instructed his army that there would be 
"no general trains of supplies," but each regiment would have 
only "one wagon and one ambulance." Each brigade would 
have behind it "a due proportion of ammunition wagons, pro- 
vision wagons and ambulances," but the army was obviously 
going to travel light, for they were to "start habitually at 
seven a. m., and make about fifteen miles per day." To do this, 
the general said, the "army will forage liberally on the 
country during the march. To this end, each brigade com- 
mander will organize a good and sufficient foraging party, 
under the command of one or more discreet officers, who will 
gather near the route traveled corn or forage of any kind, meat 
of any kind, vegetables, corn meal, or whatever is needed by 
the command; aiming at all times to keep in the wagon trains 
at least ten days provisions for the command and three days 
forage." Sherman enjoined certain restraints upon his men: 
"Soldiers must not enter the dwellings of the inhabitants or 
commit any trespass; during the halt or a camp they may be 
permitted to gather turnips, potatoes and other vegetables, 
and drive in stock in front of their camps. To regular foraging 
parties must be entrusted the gathering of provisions and 
forage at any distance from the road traveled." Nevertheless, 
Sherman directly ordered the wholesale destruction of 
economically useful property in hostile districts: 
V. To army corps commanders is entrusted the power to de- 
stroy mills, houses, cotton gins, &c, and for them this 
general principle is laid down: In districts and neighbor- 
hoods where the army is unmolested, no destruction of such 
property should be permitted; but should guerillas or bush- 
whackers molest our march, or should the inhabitants burn 
bridges, obstruct roads, or otherwise manifest local hos- 
tility, then army corps commanders should order and en- 
force a devastation more or less relentless, according to the 
measure of such hostility. 
Sherman's orders even embodied a political interpretation of 
the nature of the conflict when they allowed the cavalry and 
artillery to "appropriate freely and without limit" the horses, 
mules, and wagons of the inhabitants — "discriminating, 
however, between the rich, who are usually hostile, and the 
poor or industrious, usually neutral or friendly," Again, he 
urged restraint. "In all foraging," he said, "of whatever kind, 
the parties engaged will refrain from abusive or threatening 
language, and may when the officer in command thinks 
proper, give written certificates of the facts, but no receipts; 
and they will endeavor to leave with each family a reasonable 
portion for their maintenance." There was no sentimentality 
in his provisions for coping with live contraband: "Negroes 
who are able-bodied and can be of service to the several 
columns, may be taken along; but each army commander will 
bear in mind that the question of supplies is a very important 
one, and that his first duty is to see to those who bear arms." 
Clearly, President Lincoln understood the nature of Sher- 
man's epoch-making campaign well and did more than fret 
over whether the general would be cut off and surrounded by 
his bold move. 

Even as late as 1864, President Lincoln remained preoc- 
cupied with the problems of the Border States and, in particu- 
lar, of Missouri. Two of the clippings dealt with Missouri. 
"The Message of the Governor of Missouri" defended Gover- 
nor Hamilton R. Gamble from charges of "copperheadism or 
disloyalty." Not only did his message pledge him "to support 
the Government with all our energies in its endeavors to sup- 
press the rebellion in other States," but he also accepted a re- 
cent Ordinance of Emancipation "as a measure that will, in a 
brief period, accomplish the great object to be attained in 
making Missouri A FREE STATE." He also encouraged the 
emigration of free laborers from Europe. "If Governor GAM- 
BLE were a Kentuckian," the newspaper remarked, "we 
should think him a very sound Union man. We do not know 
but he would be charged with being an 'Abolitionist.'" This ar- 
ticle contained some praise for the President, because it con- 
demned radicals who charged him with deserting the cause of 

freedom for not giving in to "demands of the radicals that 
seemed intolerant and obtrusive." The article concluded: "The 
charge is unfounded and absurd. Doubtless he would rejoice 
as heartily as any radical, at the speedy abolition of slavery in 
Missouri, but he is not disposed to encourage excesses that 
might damage the good cause itself." 

Some of the reasons for the dispute over emancipation 
policy in Missouri are readily apparent in another clipping 
from Lincoln's wallet, "Emancipation in Missouri." This arti- 
cle simply printed the Ordinance of Emancipation passed by 
the Missouri State Convention. Slavery was to end in Mis- 
souri on July 4, 1870. On that day all slaves in the state were to 
be free, "Provided, however, that all persons emancipated by 
this ordinance shall remain under the control and be subject 
to their late owners, or their legal representatives, as servants 
during the following period, to wit: Those over forty years of 
age, for and during their lives; those under twelve until they 
arrive at the age of twenty-three; and those of all other ages 
until the 4th of July, 1876." "Apprenticeship" was the term 
which was used to describe the nature of the proposed rela- 
tionship between Missouri's "freedmen" and their "former" 
masters. However, we sometimes forget how limited a form of 
freedom apprenticeships can be because we use the term "ap- 
prentice" today to mean little more than "understudy." The 
Missouri Ordinance of Emancipation drew a good deal 
harsher picture: "The persons, or their legal representatives, 
who, up to the moment of emancipation, were owners of slaves 
hereby freed, shall, during the period for which the services of 
such freedmen are reserved to them, have the same authority 
and control over the said freedmen for the purpose of receiv- 
ing the possessions and services of the same that are now held 
by the masters in respect of his slaves; provided, however, 
that after the said 4th of July, 1870, no person so held to ser- 
vice shall be sold to non-residents or removed from the state 
by authority of his late owner or his legal representative." In 
fact, then, those forty years old and above forever, children 
until the age of twenty-three, and everyone for at least six 

From the Lincoln National Life Foundation 

FIGURE 3. John Bright (1811-1889) was a British 
liberal whose letters to Charles Sumner were read to 
President Lincoln. 


years after 1870, would be serfs who could not earn the prod- 
uct of the sweat of their brows and whose only rights were (1) 
the right not to be sold to non-Missourians and (2) the right 
not to be removed from Missouri by their masters. 

The Ordinance of Emancipation was basically Governor 
Gamble's plan. It was opposed by more radical Missourians 
who were called "Charcoals" for obvious reasons. Gamble led 
the opposing "Claybank" faction, so called because they were 
supposedly the occupants of colorless middle ground on the 
hot political question of slavery. Though there were some who 
were more conservative than Gamble — "Snowflakes," who 
thought slavery could somehow survive the war in Missouri, 
and Frank Blair, who still longed for the impossible dream of 
colonization, Gamble's was the conservative faction in Mis- 
souri politics at this time. It was little wonder that radical 
critics found his emancipation plan less than satisfactory, for 
it offered freedom to no one in less than twelve years from the 
date of the Ordinance (1864). Charcoals, though they pre- 
ferred January 1, 1864 
as the date of emanci- 
pation, were willing to 
settle for November 1, 
1866. In the end, the 
political situation 
changed in Missouri, 
and slavery was 
abolished in the statein 
January of 1865. 

Although it is true 
that none of the clip- 
pings was critical of 
President Lincoln and 
that all could be con- 
strued in some way as 
praise for him or as 
testimony to the suc- 
cess of his policies, it 
seems inadequate to 
dismiss these interest- 
ing clippings as the 
tokens and badges of a 
harmless Presidential 
vanity. The contents of 
these articles can help 
to illuminate the preoc- 
cupations of the mind 
of one of America's 
least confiding 

This was a man who 
especially valued the 
hard-won praise of his 
sometime critics. This 
was a man who realized 
the value of interna- 
tional opinion and who, 
despite his provincial 
background, cared for 
the opinions of the 
great world beyond the 
borders of the United 

In 1864, as always, 
Lincoln was a man pre- 
occupied with politics 
and social questions. 
These clippings did not 
contain gems of help- 
ful political philosophy 
or religious musings. 
They show the Presi- 
dent to have been pre- 
occupied with what his- 
torians like James G. 
Randall, Reinhard 
Luthin, and David 
Donald have said he 
was preoccupied with, 
the realities of politics 

From the Lincoln Xational Life Foundation 

FIGURE 4. General William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891) forbade 
pillaging by his soldiers when he was in command around Memphis in 
1862. His decision to march through Georgia late in 1864 in order 
to attack the South's only untouched base of supply, Georgia, launch- 
ed him to international fame. By taking the war to the civilian 
economy rather than simply to the lives of soldiers, he wrenched war 
out of its eighteenth-century assumptions and pushed it towards the 
twentieth century. 

and power — the strength of the Confederacy, the success of 
his emancipation policy, and the never-ending factional prob- 
lems of Missouri politics. This was a politician's wallet, and 
all we can tell of his personality from the nature of the articles 
is that he liked humor. 

It would strain these materials too much to argue with any 
certainty that they show us the way the President's mind was 
leaning near the end of his life. Still, we cannot ignore the 
bearing of these articles on some of the great questions of Lin- 
colniana. When Lincoln discussed gradual emancipation 
with Confederate representatives at Hampton Roads in 
February of 1865, did he by any chance have something as lei- 
surely as Missouri's plan in mind? When he allowed himself to 
think of states of quasi-freedom like apprenticeship as sequels 
to slavery, was he thinking of anything as restrictive as Mis- 
souri's plan of apprenticeship? Was Lincoln's conception of 
warfare clearly that of Sherman as described with such 
clarity and force in that General's orders for the march 

through Georgia? Was 
Lincoln not fully cogni- 
zant of the extent to 
which the war-nur- 
tured passions of the 
North would demand 
some psychological 
satisfactions from Jef- 
ferson Davis, the "Czar 
of Chivalry," and the 
rich Southerners who 
allegedly led the poor 
and industrious 
Southerners into a war 
they cared nothing 
about? All of the ques- 
tions of Reconstruction 
seem to burn through 
these pages with an in- 
tensity and brightness 
that makes clear that 
these questions surely 
were the major preoc- 
cupations of the Presi- 
dent in 1864. The atmo- 
sphere of the Hampton 
Roads Peace Con- 
ference and of the early 
period of Reconstruc- 
tion with their preoccu- 
pations with sequels to 
slavery and the prob- 
lems of dealing with 
the former Confederate 
leaders is already in 
these worn fragments 
of newspaper articles 
which were found in the 
wallet of a President re- 
leased at last from 
turmoil and strife on 
April 15, 1865. 

Editor's Note: I wish to 
thank Mrs. Mary C. Leth- 
bridge, Information Offi- 
cer of the Library of Con- 
gress, for supplying us 
with photographs of the 
clippings in Lincoln's wal- 

J. Duane Squires of New 
London, New Hampshire, 
has caught two errors in 
Lincoln Lore. In Number 
1664, Senator Hale was 
from New Hampshire not 
Maine. In Number 1667, 
Adams was a "Minister" 
not an "Ambassador," a 
title not created until 1893. 

Lincoln Lore 

August, 1981 

Bulletin of the Louis A. Warren Lincoln Library and Museum. Mark E. Neely, Jr., Editor. 
Mary Jane Hubler, Editorial Assistant. Published each month by the 
Lincoln National Life Insurance Company, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46801. 

Number 1722 



President Lincoln's attempt to reconstruct Louisiana has 
been the focus of a tremendous amount of attention in recent 
years. It has provided the exclusive subject matter of two major 
books in the last three years: Peyton McCrary's Abraham 
Lincoln and Reconstruction: The Louisiana Experiment 
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978) and LaWanda 
Cox's Lincoln and Black Freedom: A Study in Presidential 
Leadership (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 
1981). Other historians have given it considerable notice in 
books, articles, and scholarly papers of broader focus. Recon- 
struction in Louisiana is a hot topic these days. 

The attraction lies not so much in swampy Louisiana itself as 
in the subject of Reconstruction, for Lincoln made Louisiana a 
sort of model of his policy toward the conquered South. Interest 
in Reconstruction is high for three principal reasons. First, 
scholars, jurists, reformers, and policy makers have been look- 

ing for precedents set in the 1860s and 1870s for the modern 
movement for civil rights for black people a century later. 
Indeed, the measures of the modern era are sometimes called the 
Second Reconstruction. That initial impulse to study the first 
Reconstruction is well on the wane, but scholars trained in 
graduate schools in the 1960s did their initial work on Recon- 
struction and continue to work in the field even though .many 
reformers, jurists, and policy makers have abandoned those 
concerns. If that second factor may be characterized as scholar- 
ly inertia, a third factor is surely scholarly thoroughness. There 
is a sense abroad in academe that Reconstruction scholarship, 
like the Second Reconstruction to which it was a handmaiden, 
must move on to new insights that go well beyond the now old- 
fashioned attempt to prove that Reconstruction was not as bad 
as most white Americans used to think. 

LaWanda Cox, with her late husband John, wrote one of the 

From the Louis A. Warren 

Lincoln Library and Museum 

FIGURE 1. When Union forces arrived in Louisiana, Lincoln had his first big chance to reconstruct a state. 


\\\ XI 

From the Louis A. Warren 

Lincoln Library and Museum 

FIGURE 2. Some New Orleans residents scrambled to take the oath of allegiance to the United States. 

1960s' most important and influential works on Reconstruction, 
Politics, Principle, and Prejudice, 1865-1866: Dilemma of Recon- 
struction America, a book which did much to destroy Andrew 
Johnson's reputation. Mrs. Cox was already a mature scholar at 
the advent of the heyday of Reconstruction studies. Her interest 
in the subject endures because of essentially scholarly impulses. 
In her long career, she came across documents which did not 
seem to jibe with the accepted wisdom on Abraham Lincoln's 
Reconstruction policies, and she wanted to figure out what was 

In one respect, but in one respect only, her conclusions are 
not original. She shares with McCrary and other scholars a 
view, fast gaining wide acceptance among historians, that 
Abraham Lincoln would have reconstructed the South had 
John Wilkes Booth not stopped him. In light of the prepon- 
derance of evidence in favor of this view — one thinks imme- 
diately of the numerous Lincoln letters urging military 
governors in the South to get on with the work of reconstructing 
their states — the conclusion may seem obvious and banal. A 
quick glance at the conclusions reached by the previous genera- 
tion of historians like Allan Nevins and James G. Randall, will 
quickly reveal the unanimity of the contrary opinion until very 
recent times. And outside the scholarly community, the older 
view still reigns supreme and shows few signs of movement 
toward the newer view. It will require many more reiterations 
than Mrs. Cox's to turn the tide of majority opinion, and there 
is nothing wrong with her reasserting this truth. 

The real originality of Lincoln and Black Freedom lies in the 
nature of Mrs. Cox's proof of the proposition that Lincoln would 
have reconstructed the South had he lived to complete his 
second term. Readers of McCrary 's book in particular will be 
surprised to see who Mrs. Cox's heroes and villains are. The 
reader should not be fooled by her assertion that her approach in 
the book was "one of reflection rather than research." She has 
solid documentation for her most important conclusions. She 

read the crucial documents and, more important, read them 
with care and with discerning and sympathetic intelligence. It 
is a convincing book. 

The care with which Mrs. Cox read the documents is apparent 
in her first chapter. Relying for the most part on documents 
read by hundreds of historians before her, she manages never- 
theless to describe Lincoln's policies toward slavery in a fresh 
and exciting way: 
When war opened possibilities unapproachable in the 1850s, 
Lincoln's reach was not found wanting. Indeed, there is some- 
thing breathtaking in his advance from prewar advocacy of 
restricting slavery's spread to foremost responsibility for 
slavery's total, immediate, uncompensated destruction by 
constitutional amendment. The progression represented a 
positive exercise of leadership. It has often been viewed as a 
reluctant accommodation to pressures; it can better be under- 
stood as a ready response to opportunity. Willing to settle for 
what was practicable, provided it pointed in the right direc- 
tion, Lincoln was alert to the expanding potential created by 
war. Military needs, foreign policy, Radical agitation did not 
force him upon an alien course but rather helped clear a path 
toward a long-desired but intractable objective. Having 
advanced, Lincoln recognized the danger of a forced retreat, 
a retreat to be forestalled with certainty only by military vic- 
tory and constitutional amendment. His disclaimer of credit 
for "the removal of a great wrong" which he attributed to 
"God alone," though in a sense accurate, for the process of 
emancipation did not follow his or any man's design, was 
nonetheless misleading. 
Although historians have often remarked on Lincoln's 
"growth" in office, none has heretofore called the rapidity of 
change in his views on slavery "breathtaking." 

Can Mrs. Cox document it? In a word, yes. She notes that 
Lincoln was the first President ever to ask Congress to pass an 
amendment to the Constitution fully drafted by the President 


himself (in December, 1862). "Lincoln took the initiative against 
slavery," she says. When he had first suggested his scheme for 
gradual and compensated emancipation in the border states the 
previous March, "Congress had not yet taken any action 
against slavery as such." The first Confiscation Act (August, 
1861) affected only slaves used for military purposes, and the 
bill to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia had not yet 
passed either house. Even Wendell Phillips had to admit that 
Lincoln was "better than his Congress fellows." The Phillips 
letter came to light only in 1979. Mrs. Cox has been reading as 
well as reflecting. 

Mrs. Cox's interpretation of the Emancipation Proclamation 
likewise gives firm support for her use of the word "breath- 

In issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln is 
sometimes seen as lagging behind Congress, which had 
passed the Second Confiscation Act on July 17, 1862. Yet the 
first draft of his proclamation was presented to the cabinet 
just five days later and his decision had been made earlier, at 
least by July 13 — that is, before Congress acted. When his 
advisers convinced him to delay until a Union victory, 
Lincoln promptly issued the first paragraph of his draft as a 
separate proclamation giving warning that all persons who 
did not return to their allegiance would be subject, as provided 
by the Confiscation Act, to forfeitures and seizures. 
The discerning intelligence with which Mrs. Cox read the 
documents is everywhere apparent. She knows that tone is 

important. In discussing Lincoln's message on compensated 
emancipation of the spring of 1862, she notes that in "earnestly 
begfging] the attention of Congress and the people," he "rejected 
the suggestion that he substitute 'respectfully' for 'earnestly.' " 
He pleaded for his program "in full view of my great responsi- 
bility to my God, and to my country." Mrs. Cox adds shrewdly: 
"In this first major antislavery document of his presidency the 
word order of 'God' and 'country' may be not unworthy of note." 
Lincoln was honest, but he was also crafty, as Mrs. Cox knows 
from her sensitive reading of his works. When rumors that Con- 
federate peace commissioners were coming to Washington 
threatened passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in the House 
early in 1865, James Ashley asked the President for a denial. 
Pressed, Lincoln sent a one-sentence, carefully phrased 
response: "So far as I know, there are no peace commissioners 
in the city, or likely to be in it." Peace commissioners, as 
Lincoln well knew, were on their way — but to Fortress 
Monroe rather than to "the city." 
Lincoln and Black Freedom is a book for aficionados who will 
appreciate the subtle interpretations and the careful attention 
to chronology. 

When Mrs. Cox turns her formidable talents to the subject of 
Reconstruction in Louisiana, she reaches even more impressive 
and original conclusions. Her straightforward chronological 
approach allows her first to document Lincoln's education into 
the realities of disloyal sentiment in the South. Beginning with 
the notion that indigenous forces in occupied Louisiana could, 

From the Louis A. Warren 

Lincoln Library and Museum 

FIGURE 3. Union generals lectured Louisiana's blacks on their duties as freedmen. 


From the Louis A. Warren 

Lincoln Library and Museum 

FIGURE 4. Military power was much in evidence as Union soldiers practiced "street firing" in New Orleans. 

with a little encouragement, create a new free state government, 
the President learned gradually that it could not be done — at 
least not before 1864, when the threat of Democratic control of 
the national government might end all efforts to undermine 
slavery. Slowly he came around to the view of General 
Nathaniel P. Banks, the Northern military commander in the 
region, that it could be done by means of military pressure with- 
out anything approaching a majority of the local population. 
That education informed Lincoln's general Proclamation of 
Amnesty and Reconstruction of December 8, 1863, which asked 
only for a ten percent nucleus around which to form a free state 
in any of the occupied South. Banks's idea, which soon became 
Lincoln's, was to organize elections for state offices under the 
old prewar proslavery constitution and declare the parts of that 
constitution upholding slavery null by sheer military authority. 
It would take too long to wait for majority opinion even among 
the loyal people of Louisiana to come around to the conviction 
that slavery should be abolished in a new state constitution. 

Readers of Peyton McCrary's Abraham Lincoln and Recon- 
struction will be surprised to hear of this concurrence of views 
between Lincoln and General Banks. McCrary accused Banks 
of deceiving Lincoln into thinking that the local antislavery 
loyalists, the Free State Committee led by Thomas J. Durant, 
were dragging their feet in registering voters for a constitutional 
convention. Banks, McCrary argued, gained control of the 
political situation in Louisiana and engineered a conservative 
"coup" which undermined the more radical Free State move- 
ment. As Mrs. Cox points out, however, it was a long letter from 
Durant to Lincoln (October, 1863) which revealed to the Presi- 
dent that little or nothing was being done in Louisiana. 

(To be continued) 

From the Louis A. Warren 

Lincoln Library and Museum 

FIGURE 5. General Nathaniel P. Banks. 

Lincoln Lore 

Bulletin of the Louis A. Warren Lincoln Library and Museum. Mark E. Neely, Jr., Editor. 
September, 1981 Mary Jane Hubler, Editorial Assistant. Published each month by the 

Lincoln National Life Insurance Company, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46801. 

Number 1723 


A REVIEW (Cont.) 

The President then blamed Banks for the lack of progress, and 
the general, whose military duties kept him from seeing Lin- 
coln's letter until December 2nd, did not get around to defending 
himself until December 6th. Banks said, and it was true, that he 
had no orders authorizing him to take charge of the political 
situation. Since word that it would take a long time to organize a 
constitutional convention in Louisiana came from Durant him- 
self, it is little wonder that Lincoln turned to Banks and sus- 
tained him, as Mrs. Cox argues, when he differed with Durant 
and the Free State movement. 

Mrs. Cox's understanding of the situation in Louisiana is 
markedly different from McCrary's. In her book, Banks is 
depicted as leading a temporarily successful Unionist move- 

ment in Louisiana fully in keeping with the President's wishes. 
In his book, Banks is depicted as the President's deceiver. In 
Mrs. Cox's work, Durant appears as a difficult stumbling block 
to progress toward the goal of making Louisiana a free state 
before adverse political developments in 1864 could undermine 
the work. In Mr. McCrary's work, Durant appears as a man 
thoroughly wronged by Banks and a President working under 
false assumptions about political reality in Louisiana. 

Mrs. Cox wins this argument hands down. Durant chose to 
make his name in history by opposing the Lincoln-Banks 
government and by claiming that it was engineered to under- 
mine the radical Free Staters' desire to urge suffrage for Negroes 
in Louisiana. Lincoln and Black Freedom shows that in fact 

*": !: *f|p@ 

• flPW^IBSsSJpW*.-:. 

» 1 jj|§pp 

f m fv* 

/ r^,/'i 



From the Louis A. Warren 

Lincoln Library and Museum 

FIGURE 1. Governor Michael Hahn's inauguration in New Orleans, March 4, 1864. 


From the Louis A. Warren 

Lincoln Library and Museum 

FIGURE 2. Mrs. Banks sponsored a splendid entertainment on election day in Louisiana. 

the President, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, and 
Durant himself were, in the beginning, all in agreement on the 
suffrage issue. All three were committed to registering freeborn 
black citizens, principally the New Orleans Creoles. 

Durant had not gone farther than that in urging black 
suffrage by February, 1864. And Lincoln had already gone that 
far. He had twice approved registration of freeborn Negroes as 
voters in Louisiana. Lincoln approved Secretary of War Edwin 
M. Stanton's order of August 24, 1863, telling the military 
governor in Louisiana to register "all the loyal citizens of the 
United States" there. Chase had objected to the first draft of the 
order, which stipulated organizing a constitutional convention 
based on the white population. The final order stipulated "loyal" 
citizens rather than "white" citizens. "For the instructions," 
Chase said, "we are indebted to Mr. Stanton and the President." 
In the following November, Chase had to write to urge Durant, 
in charge of the voter registration, to register Negro citizens. 
Durant replied that he favored it himself, but it would be helpful 
to have specific directives from Washington. Chase went to 
Lincoln. "I informed the President of your views on this sub- 
ject," Chase told Durant on December 28, 1863, "and he said he 
could see no objection to the registering of such citizens, or to 
their exercise of the right of suffrage." 

Banks ruined this hopeful unanimity of opinion on a delicate 
subject by opposing any black suffrage. He feared that the issue 
would divide Southern loyalists and endanger the abolition of 
slavery by the new state government. The split in the Louisiana 
loyalists which followed was Banks's fault, as McCrary and 
Cox both agree, but it was also Durant's fault. In a huff over 
Banks's assumption of power in Louisiana at the President's 
direction, he chose not to discuss and compromise but to fight 
the Banks government to the bitter end. 

That opposition, combined with the suspicions of the radical 

antislavery men that Lincoln was not radical enough to suit 
them, eventually doomed the Louisiana experiment. Banks, a 
political general if there ever was one, proved to be politically 
inept. Mrs. Cox describes the demise of the experiment with 
equally convincing attention to close reading of the documents 
and careful chronology. In sum, there is a great deal more in the 
book than can be described within the confines of this review. 

If there is a significant flaw in Lincoln and Black Freedom, 
it is an error of omission rather than one of commission. Mrs. 
Cox tends to be a bit skimpy on biography. With as famous a 
figure as Lincoln, this is no problem. In his case she very proper- 
ly focuses on the particular problem and aims at straightening 
out the reader's understanding of Lincoln's role in it. 

With Nathaniel P. Banks, Mrs. Cox's failure to provide a 
wider biographical focus is more problematic. "The fate of 
Lincoln's free state," she says accurately, "suggests the vulner- 
ability of presidential purpose and power to ineptitude of execu- 
tion, the obstinacy of human nature, and misperceptions fired 
by the passion of great ends linked to personal conceits." She 
documents Lincoln's purpose in the Louisiana experiment 
better than anyone has ever done before. She finds the impor- 
tant instances of ineptitude. She describes Durant's obstinacy 
in unforgettable terms. She shows the vital links between per- 
sonal conceits and conflicts over national policy. Yet Banks's 
inept policies are central to the story, as is his obstinacy and his 
conceit. They are as central as Lincoln's purposeful leadership, 
but they are not as well described. 

Mrs. Cox realizes that Banks was too optimistic. When he told 
Lincoln that reconstructing Louisiana as a free state would be 
no more difficult than "the passage of a dog law in Massachu- 
setts," Banks made one of the worst predictions in American 
history. Thirteen years of Federal occupation and struggle — 
some of it bloody — followed Banks's assumption of political 
control in Louisiana. There was special irony, as she points out, 


From the Louis A. Warren 

Lincoln Library and Museum 

FIGURE 3. While Louisiana's loyal citizens voted, a military band played in Canal Street. It was George Washington's 
Birthday, and the occupying troops marked the anniversary with patriotic fervor. 

"in the political general failing to be politic." She shows very 
well what went wrong in Louisiana, but she does not say why 
Banks erred. There was the factor of his gross optimism, of 
course, but why was he so optimistic? 

Only biography can tell, and the problematic nature of 
Banks's conception of the Louisiana experiment seems glaring 
enough to demand more attention to his biography. Advising 
President Lincoln on Louisiana policy in 1863, Banks said: 
Offer them a Government without slavery, and they will 
gladly accept it as a necessity resulting from the war. Other 
questions relating to the condition of the negro, may safely be 
deferred until this one is secured. If he gains freedom, educa- 
tion, the right to bear arms, the highest privileges accorded to 
any race and which none has yet proved itself worthy unless 
it be our own, his best friend may rest content for another year 
at least. 
In January, he told Lincoln that the government he was cre- 
ating in Louisiana with the help of Federal bayonets would 
provide "for the gradual restoration of power to the people" but 
"in such manner as to leave the control of affairs still in the 
hands of the comm[an]ding General." When Louisiana citizens 
elected Michael Hahn governor, they "understood . . . that Mr. 
Hahn represents a popular power entirely subordinate to the 
armed occupation of the state for the suppression of the rebellion 
and the full restoration of the authority of the government." 
"The election perilled nothing," Banks told the President — 
"Had it resulted in the election of an opponent, he would be 
without power." When Louisiana's new constitution abolished 
slavery in September, Banks crowed: "History will record the 
fact that all the problems involved in restoration of States . . . 

have already been solved in Louisiana with a due regard to the 
elevation of the black and security of the white Race." 

Such optimism seems glaringly wrong in the light of subse- 
quent events in Louisiana, but it is more than "twenty-twenty 
hindsight" that makes the error clear. Foresight at the time 
surely demanded that General Banks ask what would happen 
when the Federal troops left. Would the Negro's advance, left to 
the future, occur then? When the Confederates returned, the 
opposition would surely win elections. Would the opponents be 
powerless then? To be sure, Banks's statements were meant to 
let Lincoln know that the military would not allow a disloyal 
government to rule if the Unionists lost in 1864, but should not 
even that mention of the subject have caused Banks to wonder 
about 1865 or 1866? 

Banks was sanguine. He would let the future take care of 
itself. His government would satisfy the abolitionists for 
another year (he thought, wrongly), and that was all that con- 
cerned him. Banks lived day to day, so to speak, but he also 
thought that his work in Louisiana guaranteed him immortal 
fame. "History" would record his deeds. He was conscious of 
history. He was thinking about what would be said of his 
Louisiana government in the long run, but he had no long-range 
plan. Why not? 

It is impossible to tell for certain, but a look at the general's 
career before the Louisiana experiment offers at least one entic- 
ing clue. General Banks's first command was the Department of 
Annapolis. There, in 1861, he controlled the corridor from the 
Northern states to Washington, D.C. His headquarters was in 
Baltimore, and Banks "found the situation one of Southern 
hearts and Northern muskets," as his able biographer, Fred 


Harvey Harrington, states. He tried to be conciliatory first, and 
secession sentiment soared. He was ordered to get tougher. 
Eventually, Banks's soldiers installed a pro-Union successor to 
the notoriously secessionist police marshal. 

Banks then became the head of the Army of the Shenandoah, 
and more of Maryland came under his jurisdiction. On George 
B. McClellan's orders, he arrested secessionist members of the 
Maryland legislature on their way to Frederick for a special 
session. His soldiers "protected" the polls, as pro-Union forces 
swept to victory in the autumn elections. 

In later years, Banks would boast that his administration of 
Maryland was a model for Reconstruction: 

The secession leaders — the enemies of the people — were 
replaced and loyal men assigned to . . . their duties. This made 
Maryland a loyal State. . . . What occurred there will occur in 
North Carolina, in South Carolina, in Georgia, in Alabama 
and Mississippi. If . . . those States shall be controlled by men 
that are loyal ... we shall then have loyal populations and 
loyal governments. 
The Maryland experience helps to explain Banks's optimism. 
As was more often the case than has been commonly recog- 
nized in the study of Reconstruction, such optimism was rooted 
in a particular analysis of Southern society. The analysis per- 
haps came easier to former Democrats (like Banks), who were 
used to invoking a form of class analysis in their prescriptions 
for political policy. It may have come easier as well to a poli- 
tician of working class origins (like Banks, the "Bobbin Boy of 
Massachusetts"). Banks vowed to build a loyal Louisiana out 
of the "humble and honest farmer, the poor mechanic, the hard- 

working classes, the bone and sinew of the land." It will not do to 
dismiss such statements as the rhetorical litany of American 
politicians. Banks had blamed secession on a tiny elite of rich 
planters and a Southern urban aristocracy. He thought that a 
"clear majority of the people were . . . opposed to the war and 
could you remove from the control of public opinion one or two 
thousand in each of these States . . . you would have a popula- 
tion in all of these States . . . loyal and true to the Government." 

General Banks may have been inept, but his miscalculations 
were born of practical experience in Maryland and of assump- 
tions about the social composition of Southern society. His 
conceit stemmed from memories of his role in one of the North's 
two big political successes early in the war, the retention of 
Maryland in the Union. His obstinacy in pursuing his political 
plan was rooted in a fairly systematic political philosophy 
which told him what Southern society was like. The deeper 
roots of the ineptitude, conceit, and obstinacy of the other 
characters in the Louisiana experiment likewise demand 

There are limits to what any one historian can do. Mrs. Cox 
has done more than most. One need only think of the muddled 
state of scholarship on early Louisiana Reconstruction before 
her work — and that of McCrary and other recent scholars as 
well — to be grateful for the modern accomplishments in this 

On February 10, 1982, the Civil War Round Table of New 
York City gave LaWanda Cox the Barondess/Lincoln Award 
for Lincoln and Black Freedom. She deserved it. Her book is a 
contribution to Lincoln scholarship that will last. 


From the Louis A. Warren 

Lincoln Library and Museum 

FIGURE 4. A photographer in New Orleans, E. Jacobs, took a picture of Banks and his staff in the spring of 1864. This 
woodcut was copied from it. 

Lincoln Lore 

October, 1981 

Bulletin of the Louis A. Warren Lincoln Library and Museum. Mark E. Neely, Jr., Editor. 
Mary Jane Hubler, Editorial Assistant. Published each month by the 
Lincoln National Life Insurance Company, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46801. 

Number 1724 

Presidential Clemency for Civilians Tried by Military Commission 

where they had trouble finding documentary proof of the case. 
A record of William Scott's case reached the President's office 
from the Judge Advocate General's office (the file is not now 
present in the JAG papers in the National Archives). William 
E. Barton, who wrote history in the iconoclastic style typical of 
the 1920s, chose the myth of the sleeping sentinel as one of the 
Lincoln anecdotes he exposed as untrue or at least unproved. 

Writers on Lincoln spend so much of their time dispelling 
myths that cynicism becomes an occupational hazard. It is 
important to remember that many of Lincoln's attributes 
which have taken on mythic status were genuine. "Honest 
Abe" really was honest. Lincoln really was a humorous man in 
a rather humorless era. He was also a forgiving man in a war- 
torn period in which hatred was the national norm. 

The most memorable instances of President Lincoln's clem- 
ency involved stays of soldiers' executions. He was so famous 
for such acts even in his own day that in 1863 Francis DeHaes 
Janvier published a poem, "The Sleeping Sentinel," which cele- 
brated the President's last-minute carriage ride, pardon in 
hand, to save a Vermont soldier boy from the firing squad. Wil- 
liam Scott, allegedly sentenced to die for sleeping while on 
guard duty, was the near-victim in Janvier's poem. James E. 
Murdoch, a renowned elocutionist, declaimed the poem on 
numerous occasions, and some say the President himself was 
present at one of the declamations. "No one," Harper's Weekly 
stated, "ever heard it without being moved to tears." 

Historians were later moved not to tears but to the archives 

Lincoln's reputation for acts of clemency survived Barton's 
assault, as well it should have. In general, however, that reputa- 
tion has rested less on definitive statistics than on numerous 
pieces of testimony from government insiders who knew of the 
President's ltindheartedness. Jonathan T. Dorris, the foremost 
modern student of pardon and amnesty in Lincoln's) era, did 
find definitive statistics on Presidential pardons in civilian 
courts, but statistics on military courts have proved elusive. 

Military statistics do exist, however. The numerous cases 
involving soldiers must await further study in the future, but 
the cases involving civilians tried by military commissions pro- 
vide a manageable number of cases for analysis here. 

W&RHfcffi I 

From the Louis A. Warren 

Lincoln Library ami Museum 

FIGURE 1. St. Louis citizens flocked to the provost marshal's office to procure passes for travel. This was the most 
widely felt burden of martial law in Missouri. 


. - 

From the Louis A. Warren 

Lincoln Library and Museum 

FIGURE 4. Martial law was meant to protect Unionist 
refugees like these as well as to punish the disloyal. 

Actually, one could describe most of these cases as matters of 
political dissent only if one could call the attempt to create the 
Confederate States of America and the Civil War that followed 
matters of political dissent. The citizens whose cases Lincoln 
adjudicated came overwhelmingly from the border area: Mis- 
souri (41.5% of the 147 cases identifiable by state), Tennessee 
(25.9%), Maryland (6.8%), Arkansas (4.8%), and Virginia (4.1%). 
Missouri and Tennessee thus accounted for two-thirds of the 
147 cases. Both states were the scene of actual military opera- 
tions, and Tennessee, of course, had seceded and was a part of 
the Union only to the degree that military power made it so. 
Since Missouri never seceded, disloyalty was a problem cir- 
cumscribed by certain traditional constitutional limits, but 
martial law existed there as well. 

The generals who declared martial law did not do so just to 
make it easier to enforce ideological purity on the local inhabi- 
tants. The following are the crimes for which the cases in Mis- 
souri were convicted (individuals were often accused of more 
than one crime; 61 individuals were responsible for these 

Aiding and abetting enemy 1 

Arson 1 

Assault with intent to kill 2 

Attempted robbery 1 

Disloyalty 2 

Encouraging rebellion 1 

Grand larceny 3 

Guerrilla 1 1 

Larceny 2 

Marauder 1 

Military insurgent 2 

Murder 6 

Robbery 8 

Selling government property 1 

Spy 1 

Taking up arms against U.S. 1 

Violating Act of 17 July 1862 3 

Violating Laws and Customs of War 21 

Violating Military Orders 1 

Violating Oath of Allegiance 23 

Violating Dept. of Missouri Orders 1 

Violating Parole 2 

Where martial law is declared, the military supercedes the 
civil power. Nevertheless, in Missouri it did not do so entirely, 
and the civil courts clearly handled many cases even in areas 

where martial law was in effect. William E. Parrish's history of 
Missouri in the Civil War era notes that martial law "by no 
means eliminated civilian courts or controls but relegated 
these functions to military supervision when demanded by the 
exigencies of war." He states further that: 
Political prisoners usually had a fairly prompt hearing 
before a military board, which resulted in their being released 
on bond or banished, depending upon the severity of their 
case. If they had been involved in serious guerrilla activity, 
they could be sentenced to death or permanent imprison- 
ment. In the latter case, they were usually transferred to the 
new federal prison at Alton, Illinois, which opened in Feb- 
ruary, 1862. 

Although Confederate forces were driven out of Missouri 
after the Battle of Pea Ridge, March 7-8, 1862, the state became 
the scene of the most vicious guerrilla conflicts of the Civil War. 
William C. Quantrill, Dr. Charles R. "Doc" Jennison, and 
James H. "Jim" Lane gained unenviable reputations for ruth- 
less waging of the sort of civil war that is not fought in uniform. 
Those guerrillas and others less famous sowed the seeds of 
bitter animosity which carried over into "feuding" and ban- 
ditry long after the Civil War was over. Union soldiers and 
martial law did what they could to stop it. The names of many 
of those they stopped eventually wound up on President Lin- 
coln's desk. 

To judge from the cases on which Lincoln acted, one can say 
that military trials of civilians were exceedingly rare outside 
the Confederate and Border States. Among the 184 cases in 
which Lincoln took some action, no more than 12 involved 
Northerners outside the District of Columbia (which was offi- 
cially under martial law), and it is not clear that all of these 
were tried in the Northern states of which the accused were 
citizens. Military trials of civilians occurred mainly in areas 
where the military commission was the only form of justice or 
where it was as likely to dispense justice as the local civil court 
was. Even then, its victims, if they may be called that, some- 
times got another hearing before a singularly humane and for- 
giving President. 

////'. //'///■{ >/■//. /■( //Aur/r/t /A,/ /" ^»/ /w , rf 
/'///fr/H., /,J/f/f/l/ e/l /% /////e/ //mj r.i Aj// ■ s/rtr .',/ 
eritSfiKiMHmhi ^A/w»/>« eA/'eij" rmer a/T/t eejte/ Ms/i 

s/e S/t re/'y /ysv/j*/ e///A J//s>t r /As .'/?/// J/~A;t ///s//s/s//7,W?s>t . 

e/ ////( &2?ec er /sees/fAAe/seee //ssrsAst . 

lJfo /?,/// ///r;//, esA/rr//y, >//s/ri AtrffA stow*/ 

j?/// //«?>/{ re ■/■/// /■a-f/./zr/ ,///( „///?/ c/> AAe e'//// AfA . 'AeAj 

A As /■'AAreeA 

l»«w^. Ju/cV/t /// AA( / '/,/ s~A /7s/s/e)/s//£//./%/-J 

:. ■ ., ' / / J 

-AeenAeAi r4/'/ r/> -y//r/, Aj}/)/fS<r»i/ 
ef Au ^/r/t/'/j/e/fi/ee e/l /w //;//// e/ 
■" ./ '//?//* j /At { /e////// ,// //;///$ . 

tit/ rf/i 

ur .sr/ssfi 


tf.ccL- *^Vl< 

■///■/r/SSS/ ■ r '■ 

From the Louis A. Warren 

Lincoln Library and Museum 

FIGURE 5. A Presidential pardon. 


Confederates had little 
in common with Nazis 

In the June 21 News-Sentinel 
there was a major report on the re- 
lease of Disney's "Hunchback of No- 
tre Dame." The story included a de- 
scription of one character as being 
"the evil minister, Claude Frollo, . . . 
tortured by his lust, self-righteous- 
ness and intolerance." The story 
' then included a quote from Kirk 
Wise, one of the film's directors. "As 
we were exploring the characters, 
especially Frollo, we certainly found 
a lot of historical parallels to the 
mania he had: the Confederate 
South, Nazi Germany, take your 


Once again, as with "Pocahon- 
tas," Disney has proven it knows 
little about American history. One 
of the great slanders is the continu- 
ing comparison of the Confederacy 
with Nazi Germany when fact and 
evidence prove the two had nothing 
in common. 

The Confederate secretary ot 
state (Judah Benjamin) was Jew- 
ish, as were the Confederate repre- 
sentative to France, the surgeon 
general, quartermaster general, as- 
sistant adjutant general and 23 
staff officers. All Jewish. 

It wasn't a Confederate general 
who issued General Order 11. It 
was Gen. U.S. Grant on Dec. 17, 
1862, who issued the order banning 
Jewish peddlers from Northern 
camps. Not all peddlers, just the 
ones who were Jewish. 

In the 1930s the Nazi German- 
American Bund grew in large num- 
bers in such liberal centers as New 
York and Chicago; however, they 
failed to even gain a foothold in the 
South because Southerners knew 
the Bund was an enemy to Amen- 

In 1990 officials and students at 
Harvard University led a bitter ver- 
bal attack on Brigid Kerrigan, a 
student from Virginia who had a 
Confederate flag in her dorm roorn 
Some students compared the South 
to Nazi Germany. This was despite 
the fact that at Memorial Church at 
Harvard Yard there's a memorial 
plaque with the names of all Har- 
vard graduates who have died in 
wars, including those German 
graduates who died fighting for 
Nazi Germany in World War II. All 
groups are listed on the plaque, ex- 
cept for one: the Confederates who 
died for the South. Harvard would 
rather honor Nazi soldiers than 
honor Confederate Americans. 

In addition, Lowell House, one of 
the campus residence halls, is 
named after A Lawrence Lowell, a 
Harvard president. Lowell was an 
anti-Semite who said that one of 
the highlights of his ao 1 ministration 
was that he kept as many Jews as 
he could out of Harvard. 

Kerrigan defiantly continued at 
Harvard, kept the Confederate flag 
in her dorm room and graduated, 
much to the dislike of the political 
correctness mob. 

Would that Disney could do the 
same in terms of doing what was 
right instead of what was conve- 
nient. However, I'm not counting on 

Michael Skaggs 


Water, sewer problems 

All of us desire to see our city 
prosper. Economic development is 
the key to prosperity. However, 
Fort Wayne lacks in two primary 
areas that any businessman would 
consider foremost. These two areas 
are clean water and adequate sew-